What are the different kinds of veterinary jobs and careers?
If you want to work in the veterinary industry, it’s probably safe to say that you really like (or even love) animals! But did you know that there’s actually a variety of individual career paths you can follow within the wider veterinary field?
Whether you’re particularly detail-oriented or more focused on “the big picture”; wanting to flex your science brain or your creative side; an intellectual problem-solver or a nurturer; or seeking a sociable daily working hub or a quiet office environment where you can focus, there’s likely a veterinary job to meet your ideal career requirements.
So whether you are a veterinarian, veterinary nurse, or technician or just love working with animals, here are a few of the different ways you can work within the animal health industry, in a manner that will play to your specific skills, strengths, and interests…
For a doctor of veterinary medicine, the most traditional career path has been clinical veterinary work. You may enjoy a clinical role if you wish to work within a team environment, utilize your medical knowledge and surgical skills to care for animals, and build trusting professional relationships with owners.
Veterinary clinical work may involve general practice or emergency work, with companion animals, large animals, or a mix of both. Many vets enjoy the wide variety of professional duties they can practice within a single day, from consulting, performing routine or emergency surgeries, managing hospital patients, triaging emergency cases, and performing point-of-care diagnostics.
Vets can also undertake additional supervised training (culminating in the passing of advanced examinations) if they wish to specialize in a particular service, e.g. internal medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, oncology, or dermatology.
The major role of vet techs or nurses is to support vets in providing medical and surgical care for animals. Common duties involve basic physical examinations and patient triage, administering medications prescribed by the vet, humanely restraining animals, performing in-hospital procedures such as blood collection and laboratory tests, monitoring anesthetics, and preparing animals for surgery.
Vet nurse roles offer an opportunity to provide hands-on medical care for animals, work within a team, and support pet owners with empathetic, professional communication and education regarding pet care.
Public health veterinarians cohesively link animal health and industry work to the human health and environmental protection fields and enjoy functioning as part of the overarching One Health approach to help effectively manage animal-related community and global health risks.
Vets in these roles utilize their veterinary training within various sub-fields such as animal welfare, food safety, epidemiology, and biosecurity work to control communicable (including zoonotic) diseases. They may also collaborate with human physicians for biomedical research, liaise with other public health and environmental agencies, assist with community responses to emergencies or natural disasters, and help develop government policies and strategies regarding animal health and welfare.
Veterinarians in the pharmaceutical industry are involved in the research, development, and distribution of veterinary medicines, technologies, services (such as diagnostic testing), and other animal health support products. They also serve technical advisory roles regarding the ongoing safe and correct usage of these products or services.
Many vet techs or nurses opt for pharmaceutical sales representative positions, involving the marketing and promotion of veterinary medications and services to vets and other animal health business owners. This involves in-depth learning about particular products, in order to educate veterinary teams about their day-to-day usage and relevance.
Vets and nurses in pharmaceutical roles enjoy using their medical knowledge and communication skills to promote innovative ideas and technologies for future animal health benefits.
Agriculture and production
The role of veterinarians in some animal-related agricultural sectors (e.g. the dairy industry) has evolved from primarily clinical work to a greater amount of advisory and consultancy work. Vets provide producers with valuable advice on national agricultural policies and guidelines (such as those relating to animal welfare practices, biosecurity programs or correct antibiotic usage), help to establish husbandry protocols for humane and efficient animal care, and may assist in training farm employees in the practical performance of these duties.
Vets in agricultural advisory roles enjoy the opportunity to guide livestock producers on optimal herd health management practices; in order to both maximize farm productivity and profitability, and ensure livestock are healthy and humanely cared for.
Behavior and training
If you have a particular interest in animal behavior and welfare and want to apply your knowledge in a hands-on way to help pets and their owners to live happily and harmoniously, you may wish to pursue a career as a certified dog trainer.
General veterinary nurse qualifications and experience will provide a strong baseline understanding of different dog breeds and their characteristics, general dog handling, and canine body language; as well as good skills regarding owner communication and education. However, pursuing further specific qualifications in dog behavior and training will provide a deeper understanding of abnormal canine behaviors, and maximize your practical problem-solving abilities.
If you enjoyed learning the theory behind the practical skills of veterinary science or veterinary nursing, are passionate about high-quality practicing standards and protocols, and have strong communication skills, you may wish to be involved in training future generations of veterinary doctors or nurses!
Depending on the particular academic position, vets wishing to pursue teaching roles may require a Ph.D. or another additional qualification but are sometimes also hired based purely on their practical experience within a specific area. Academic roles for vets include lecturing at veterinary universities or colleges or working as a resident vet within a veterinary teaching hospital.
Within veterinary nursing, official nursing qualifications are highly regarded, and for some clinical positions, required. Veterinary nurse teaching positions involve providing structured training and assessment in particular modules of nursing certificates or diplomas, e.g. animal handling, anesthesia monitoring, radiography, surgical nursing duties.
This role is a leadership position where using your multi-tasking and interpersonal communication skills, and overall business administration knowledge, you can help create a supportive and pleasant working environment for veterinary staff and an efficient, welcoming practice for clients and patients!
Practice management tasks include staffing duties (such as rostering, recruitment, and HR processes), overseeing client relations, administrative tasks (such as managing stock levels and medical supplies), finance and accounting duties (such as payment of invoices, managing budgets and expenses, and complying with tax regulations), ensuring adherence to occupational health and safety protocols, and dealing with day-to-day operational issues.
Undertaking a veterinary practice management certification is helpful (but not essential) for the successful performance of this role.
Veterinary business consultancy
Do you like business analysis, management, and problem-solving? Then veterinary consultancy may be for you!
Veterinary consultants act as professional advisors to veterinary clinics and practices, by assessing and refining their business operations. They will evaluate staff training procedures, performance, and scheduling, assess clinic administrative protocols, and examine financial statements and clinic budgets, with the aim of creating or implementing business practices that will maximize a veterinary clinic’s efficiency, staff and client satisfaction, and profits.
Consultants may be hired to assist a new practice owner to set up their clinic, or when there is a noticeable issue within an existing clinic (e.g. declining profits or high staff turnover). Prior practice management experience or additional business qualifications are ideal for this role.
Effective veterinary practice marketing is essential for building and maintaining clientele, and communicating with and educating pet owners, and yet many veterinary practice owners are too busy to dedicate much time to planning and implementing proper marketing strategies.
This has led to an increased market… for marketing jobs! These roles may involve freelance writing work or overall marketing management for individual veterinary clinics, veterinary marketing companies, or corporates, and can offer a way to utilize knowledge of the veterinary industry in a creative manner.
Marketing tasks can include creating campaigns to attract new clients (e.g. generating social media content and performing search engine optimization), producing engaging, helpful content for existing clients (e.g. monthly e-newsletters, health alerts, or promotional campaigns), brand development, and monitoring campaign effectiveness.
Whether you’re a veterinarian or vet tech, or just looking to enter the animal health care industry in some capacity, there’s likely an interesting, enriching career path that will play to your professional strengths and interests.
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